Archive | October 2012

A Quick Little Update

I keep forgetting to post about this, but the bees have been surprisingly active during breaks between the rain. To the point that it looks like spring out there. They are also hauling in huge amounts of pollen. It seems like every other bee coming back from forage is carrying bright yellow pollen. Aside from the fact that with all this activity they may be burning through their winter stores a little faster than they should be, I’m not really worried about them at all. White Hive had a ridiculous amount of honey last time I opened them, and they actually made it through the winter with a good deal of honey to spare last year, so I see no reason for them to not make it through the winter this year. I think I’m most concerned with my aunts hive, since they were only able to fill two boxes this year. That said, that’s what Warre’ says the hives should be reduced to for overwintering.

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Fall Cleaning

Since both hives were especially active today, I figured I may as well do a quick post about it. There wasn’t much to note, except that they were audible from about 20 feet away, and a fair few of them had bright yellow pollen in their baskets. They were as active as any day in late spring I’d say, when the population is fairly large but not much is blooming/the population is still younger.

As I walked around I found one of the beautiful drones from Tasha’s hive. His wings had been destroyed, which made it apparent that he was being evicted. I like drones though. They’re bees you can play with, lol. So, I promptly picked him up and took a few pictures!

 

Isn’t he pretty? There are some males that are just that honey-auburn color, with no black on them. This photo doesn’t do him credit. His legs appeared as though they were golden. Isn’t this picture great though? This was taken with my simple iPhone 4S.

I also spotted this giant spider while talking with my neighbor. If you are arachnid phobic, I suggest you scroll past quickly, lol.

Isn’t she ghastly? I wanted to get a closer look at her but was noooot interested in picking her up. She was almost as large as my thumb, and as big as her… I don’t know arachnid anatomy at all. As big as her rump was, her middle bit and head were just as long. And silver too, which I found odd. I’ve never seen a spider like her before. My neighbors wanted me to squish her, but that bright red was too pretty to step on!

There was some other bug that I noticed today… Oh! A grasshopper! We only get one or two a year, and we don’t see them often, but today one decided to take a rest on the side of our house. It was rather bizarre. I should’ve taken a picture of that too, but didn’t unfortunately.

That said, I’m going to bed. Its 12:30 am and I’m finally feeling sleepy. I’ll finally get to drift to sleep to the sound of rain! We had a proper storm blow in this evening. The kind that slams into the side of the house, hurtling rain at the windows and shaking the glass in its panes. I love it! I hope the bees are having as much fun in their homes as I’m having in mine!

Rain!

Finally the rains have come. This has been an almost record breaking year for heat and dryness here in Washington, and with this overly extended good weather (certainly the driest year I’ve ever seen) I’ve been concerned for the bees. They have yet to spend a day confined to the hive, and their level of activity is worrisome. There was an ’emergence’ from White Hive yesterday, and the bees were busy enough that they could be heard from the house again, which hasn’t happened for several weeks now. And while I was out listening to them I noticed several bumble bees out. I don’t think I’ve ever seen bumble bees out so late in the year.

There is also nothing in bloom right now. I have no idea where my bees are going everyday. The only thing in bloom in my yard is a pink dahlia, and only bumble bees have ever visited that. Our ever-bearing raspberries have fruited again, and they didn’t do that last year.

I know the bees have ample honey, so I’m not too worried about them going through that, but they didn’t have as much pollen as I would’ve liked, last time I opened the hive. I don’t know of anything that blooms this late in the year. Maybe I’ll check my flora/fauna book tomorrow.

Anyway! I was so excited about the rain I had to run out and stand in it when I first heard it. And then promptly run back inside to write a post!

Extracting 2.0 2012

I finally got around to extracting my honey this year, with my fancy new press. I have to say, using a press was much easier than my previous ‘turkey pan’ method. And I got a lot more honey out of it too! Here’s what I did.

I took a large swath of cheese cloth, folded it in half, and made a little bit of a bag it in the middle of my extractor canister. I then scraped just over half of the frames off, directly into the cheese cloth bag. I put a jar under the spicket end to ensure I didn’t loose any honey while I was still in the process of removing it from the frames. So, I got to enjoy these lovely patterns the different honeys made as they slowly leaked out of the wax on their own.

 

It was weird seeing the different kinds of honey come pouring out like this, especially since the frames all appeared the same.

Oh, I also would like to point out that I basically did this on the floor of my kitchen, because putting the extractor up on a surface would’ve made things a lot more complicated and would’ve been impossible due to the large screws (one is shown above) that stick out of the board the extractor is attached to. Hence the cardboard beneath.

 

Here’s my first jar of honey from this extraction! Its full of wax because the cheese cloth slipped while I wasn’t paying attention and some wax got out. There are also A LOT of air bubbles in the honey. Once I actually started pressing the honey out of the wax all of the air in between the frames was squished out too which filled the honey with little bubbles. They have all since cleared though and the honey looks much prettier now.

 

I honestly couldn’t see the difference between these two honeys until I had mixed them. I ended up with a little less than a pint in my last jar (or what I thought was my last jar; I ended up squeezing another half pint out of the wax) and put it in several of the jars that had a little bit more room in them. This jar clearly shows the difference in color though. If I had been smart (and hadn’t just spent 3 hours eating small amounts of honey during the down time of my operation) I would’ve tasted the two different honeys side by side to compare them. Oh well.

I ended up with a wonderful 15 pints of honey, and several pounds of wax. The cheese cloth worked wonderfully and allowed me to take all of the wax out and put it straight into a ziploc bag for later use. And clean up was a breeze! All I had to do was boil some water and grab a wash cloth and the extractor was clean in minutes. MUCH simpler than my previous attempts at harvesting. And the honey came faster and cleaner than previous attempts as well. This extractor was money well spent I’d say. Now I just have to figure out what kind of stand I can put it on so I don’t have to spend another three hours hunched over uncomfortably on the floor, scooping honey around the trough and into jars.

I’m excited about all this honey! Despite having swarmed three times, White Hive still managed to produce enough honey to be harvested from twice and produce 4+ more pints than it did last year. And this has been one of the driest summers on record here in Washington this year! I really need to buy/make a second and third super, because without them next year is going to be crazy. I also plan on removing the foundation from the frames in the super. I don’t see any reason for them since I’m extracting by squishing the wax, and the bees really do draw out wax much faster without foundation present. I’ll just run a wire or two through the frame to add support, and let the bees take it from there next year.